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The Hill of Tara. Image credit

The harp that once through Tara’s halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls
As if that soul were fled.
So sleeps the pride of former days,
So glory’s thrill is o’er,
And hearts that once beat high for praise
Now feel that praise no more.

No more to chiefs and ladies bright,
The harp of Tara swells;
The chord alone, that breaks at night,
Its tale of ruin tells.
Thus Freedom now so seldom wakes,
The only throb she gives
Is when some heart indignant breaks,
To show that still she lives.

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

See also –[…]-The-Hill-of-Tara-Ireland.html

We have highlighted the difficult times archaeologists are having during the credit crunch and were therefore interested to see archaeologists discussing this question:
“would any of us be tempted to be unethical in order to secure employment?”

From where we’re standing the question could have been posed years ago. Does an archaeological landscape get quarried because all archaeologists acted entirely in its interest? Is every investigation prior to development carried out without regard to the commercial interests involved?

“Developer funded archaeology” has been with us for years. The implications of the arrangement are obvious. Often they are hinted at, rarely are they explained, highlighted and admitted. The fact is, some pipers call some tunes. People are human.

Will the credit crunch make it worse? Of course. Will the government’s proposals to streamline the process make it worse still, and isn’t that one of the unspoken intentions? Of course.

One can have the highest of aspirations and one can wish to keep to the strictest professional codes but if one also wants to put bread and butter on the table it’s awkward…

We applaud the fact the question has been asked and we wish it was discussed more openly and more often. After all, if archaeologists don’t bring it up we can hardly expect either developers or the government to do so. All you’ll ever hear publicly from them is yes, of course we want you to be scrupulous and ethical. And of course, that’s what archaeologists want too. But in truth, the system is not set up to encourage that. Quite the reverse. If archaeologists don’t point that out then how will the truth ever emerge?

“LOUGH GUR, one of Europe’s most important archaeological sites and located in Co Limerick, could soon be awarded world heritage status.”

One of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites, Lough Gur, has been put on the tentative list of World Heritage sites. The application was made by Limerick County Council. The Lough Gur site dates back to the Neolithic period and there are many megalithic remains beside the lake. It boasts the largest stone circle in Ireland at Grange, and the remains of at least three crannogs within the lake.

It lies, “20 kms from Limerick and includes stone circles and standing stones, ancient burial chambers, cairns and Neolithic house sites dating back more than 4,500 years…” to quote from this news article in the Irish Times –  

In a country that is so rich in archaeological remains it is surprising to find that there are only two other World Heritage sites in Ireland – Skellig Michael and the Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne. Of course one other very famous site has also been added to the tentative list, this is the Hill of Tara, a site that is already ruined by the motorway still being built through the Skryne valley and which is also destroying valuable heritage sites or an ‘archaeological ensemble’ that goes to make up a very important landscape.

Not long ago the then British Culture Minister, David Lammy, called metal detectorists heritage heroes, something that caused consternation amongst archaeologists and all others who thought heritage belonged to us all and wasn’t up for individuals to take away for their own benefit.

We do wonder whether the Chinese Culture Minister and millions of his countrymen are currently using the same term about this gentleman, with rather more cause.

How about it Mr Lammy? If metal detectorists are heritage heroes how would you describe that person? And how does he measure up to the metal detectorist finder of this which your successor is trying to prevent being exported providing £35,000 can be hurriedly scraped together as a heroic reward? Maybe the hero could just donate it, as if he was a culture-loving Chinese patriot, what do you think? Or isn’t that how your version of heroism works?


         (This image is available for download as our March wallpaper)


March 2009

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